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How to Make Authentic Mexican Salsa at Home

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Whether cooks want to make recipes using salsa or just a simple dip, one of the most frequently sought after explanations regarding salsa is how to make authentic Mexican salsa. Let’s dive into the answer, since it’s a little more complicated than you might think.

“Authentic” Mexican Salsa

Before we talk about how to make it, what is authentic Mexican salsa? Essentially any tomato- and pepper-based sauce from Mexico is referred to as a salsa, though from a culinary perspective there’s little to distinguish a salsa from a chutney or a relish. There are essentially two kinds of salsa made in Mexico: fresh and cooked. Fresh versions include pico de gallo salsa dips, in which raw ingredients are chopped together, as well as cooked versions using stewed tomatoes. Red and green salsas are also both common, and can both be considered authentic.

While most people aren’t dogmatic about what makes a salsa authentic or not — though it’s worth noting Mexican versions tend to be much spicier than the classic mild salsa dips so popular at American potlucks — they rarely include corn and beans (which indicate a Southwestern salsa) or fruits (which tend to pair better with Carribbean cuisine).

How to Make Authentic Mexican Salsa

OK, now on to how to make authentic Mexican salsa. For space’s sake, we’ll stick to a classic pico de gallo. All good salsas start with good tomatoes. The best tomatoes for salsa will have firm flesh, and not too much pulp or too many seeds. If the only tomatoes you can get are a little soft, you can dice them and drain them in a colander for an hour or so before getting started (save the tomato water that drains off — it makes a great bloody Mary).

While your tomatoes are draining, you should clean the seeds out of your chosen peppers and finely dice your onions. The tomato-to-pepper ratio is a matter of taste, but you can start with one jalepeno to three tomatoes and adjust from there. Chop a handful of cilantro as finely as possible, too, then throw everything in a bowl together. Squeeze half a lemon over the top (cut side up, so no seeds drop in), add salt and pepper to taste, and you’ve got fresh homemade salsa to go in anything you want — that is, if you don’t finish it off with chips first.

Do you have a background in Mexican cuisine? Share your thoughts on what distinguishes authentic Mexican salsa from various offshoots in the comments.

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